There is plenty of chatter about Republicans’ support for Hillary Clinton. Did they help tip the balance in her favor in Texas? Are they simply making mischief to help the candidate they believe will be the weaker nominee?
Well the chatter may get louder in the wake of the Reverend Wright revelations and yesterday’s speech. Republicans now are coming around to the view that Obama is a terribly flawed candidate. Put differently, Republicans have discovered that Obama is worse than they thought, indeed perhaps worse than Hillary Clinton, the Cruella D’Ville of Republican politics.
Even before the Reverend Wright sermons were fully exposed there was plenty of reason for Republicans to be concerned about a possible Obama presidency. When Ted Kennedy swoons, Republicans worry. In other words, they suspect (with some justification based on the National Journal rankings) that Obama is far more liberal than Clinton and therefore antagonistic toward Republicans’ long term policy goals. Deep in their hearts they suspect Clinton is just “in it to win it” while Obama actually believes the hype, the left-leaning rhetoric and even some of his policy commitments.
Republicans have long suspected, for example, that Clinton’s lurch to the left on Iraq is simply a feint designed to capture the nomination and, as General Keane suggested, she wouldn’t really put the nation’s interests at risk by pulling out precipitously. Obama? He might, despite Samantha Power’s wishes to the contrary, actually mean what he says. Heck, if he’s willing to have tea with Raul Castro and Hugo Chavez why would he backtrack on his pledges to the netroot base to leave Iraq no matter what? Clinton, these Republicans surmise, tipped her hand when she voted in favor of the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment labeling the Iranian Revolutionary Guard as a terrorist organization. See, underneath is all she’s not a fuzzy-headed dove, they conclude.
So if at least some Republicans had identified Clinton as the lesser of the two evils before the Wright revelations what must they think now? Certainly the concern that Obama either agrees with, or will play footsie with, the most extreme elements on the left has been re-ignited. (This, of course, is not just a Republican worry- liberals are fretting, if not panicked that their great moral beacon is ethically dim.) They now have gnawing doubts about the moral fiber of a a man who, as Shelby Steele put it, “fellow-traveled with a little race hatred.”
And the notion that with an Obama presidency we would escape the mendacity of another round of the Clintons? That hope has been tempered as it has become increasingly evident that Obama’s honesty quotient isn’t much higher. If it were, the same man who found Reverend Wright too controversial to speak at his announcement kick off would not months later insist “I don’t think my church is actually particularly controversial.” Then there was an interview on Monday in which he came up with another excuse – he would have distanced himself sooner from Wright and Tony Rezko had he in been in Washington longer. Huh? That seemed, of course, to fly in the face of his goals to convince us that 1) he didn’t know about Wright’s statements earlier and 2) he finds Wright’s hate speech abhorrent.
Next was the speech. For many Republicans his effort to set up a moral equivalence between Grandma and Wright was just too much to bear. For Republicans, the speech shattered any illusion that for all his left-leaning views Obama holds the moral high ground against the Clintons.
So, it would be delightful, many Republicans still agree, to put a stake through the Clinton era of political savagery sooner rather than later. But in the end, politics is about choices. If some Republicans now seem to be rooting for Clinton, they may not be trying to game the system; they may just want to prevent the worst of the two Democrats from advancing one step closer to the presidency. Does it matter? Sure–Indiana, West Virginia, North Carolina, Puerto Rico and Montana are all open primaries. So Clinton’s hopes may rest (irony of ironies) on these Republicans helping her to beat an opponent they may dislike even more than she.